FACT CHECK: Joe Biden Claims The Debt Was Reduced Under His Presidency

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

President Joe Biden claimed during an interview with 60 Minutes that the U.S. debt and deficit have been reduced under his tenure.

Verdict: False

While the deficit has decreased under Biden, it is largely because of COVID-19 related spending expiring and not due to Biden policies. The debt has continued to increase.

Fact Check:

President Joe Biden sat down with Scott Pelly, the host of 60 Minutes, where he discussed subjects such as inflation, the economy, COVID-19 and Ukraine. During the interview, Biden claimed that “[his administration] also reduced the debt and reduced the deficit by $350 billion my first year. This year, it’s gonna be over $1.5 trillion reduced the debt.”

It is true that the deficit between Fiscal Years (FY) 2020 and 2021 was reduced by $360 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It is worth noting, though, that the CBO projected that the deficit would be $2.3 trillion in 2021, but had increased following the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

The deficit is set to fall to roughly $1 trillion in 2022, roughly a $1.8 trillion reduction in the deficit between FY 2021 and 2022, according to the CBO. Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), said to Check Your Fact in a phone interview that the decrease in the deficit was not due to Biden’s policies, however. 

“The reason it’s going to fall is because COVID relief is ending,” Goldwein said. (RELATED: Did Drug Companies Spend $100 Million Lobbying Against The Inflation Reduction Act?)

Goldwein added that “80% of that $1.8 trillion or so falling deficit is because of expiring or waning COVID relief. The remaining 20% you can explain by economic changes, including a stronger than expected economy and especially higher inflation which leads to higher tax revenue.”

The CRFB estimated that the “Biden Administration has enacted policies through legislation and executive actions that will add more than $4.8 trillion to deficits between 2021 and 2031.”

Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, told Check Your Fact in an email that the reduction in the deficit is “primarily driven by a phaseout in pandemic-related spending and an increase in tax revenue over the recovery.”

“The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to reduce deficits on net over the next ten years by about $238 billion, but most of this savings will come after 2025 when some of the IRA spending expires,” Watson added. “Despite this one-year reduction in the deficit, the CBO projects that “federal deficits are set to remain large by historical standards and to generally increase throughout the next decade.” (RELATED: Was There ‘No Vaccine’ Available When Joe Biden Took Office?)

Biden’s claim that his administration reduced the debt is incorrect. When he took office, the total national debt was $27.75 trillion. As of Sept. 16, the national debt is $30.89 trillion, marking an increase of $3 trillion, according to the Treasury Department.

A White House official told Check Your Fact that Biden was referring to the deficit and not the debt. The official also pushed back against assessments that the deficit fell because of “end of pandemic spending.”

“And it’s not right to say it’s only about the end of the pandemic spending. Outlays (sending) fell by about $950 billion from 2021 to 2022 but revenues also increased by around $800 billion due to the strong recovery,” the official said. “In fact, the 2022 deficit as a share of GDP is lower in the May 2022 projection (4.2%) than it was before the Rescue Plan passed (4.6% in the Feb 2021 CBO projection). That shows that the strong recovery under President Biden didn’t just drive a strong recovery but also led to a better fiscal outcome.”

Factcheck.org rated a similar claim Biden made about reducing the deficit in April as misleading.

Check Your Fact reached out to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the Progressive Policy Institute and The Heritage Foundation for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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